My red sweater

You will meet the girl of your dreams in this.
– Luanne

I have the habit of wearing black. I’ve been told that I remind them of Johnny Cash when they see me in a particular outfit I have. Somethink my style of dress is somber, some think it’s slick. Some think it’s boring, others think I’m a goth (they are thoroughly misinformed about what it is to be ‘goth’).

I was going clothes shopping at the local mall. My good friends Susie and Luanne were with me. It was a rare occasion, and I really enjoyed being with both of my friends at the same time. I only wished it happened more often. I was going to the mall to pick up another J. Ferrar half-zip sweater. I absolutely loved it. What color was it? None other than the classic black.

See, I already had one at home. But the thing is, when I see something I like, I stick with it. This goes for everything: shoes, shirts, coats, food, electronics, and even people. I am a man of loyalty. So when I found this sweater, I knew I had to at least pick up one more, just in case the first one got ruined.I remembered precisely where I had first picked up the sweater, so I walked straight there. Luanne saw me reaching for a black one, and she exclaimed, “Another black one! You’ve got way too many black clothes mister! You need something with color.” I tried to debate my stance on black, about how black worked with both pants and jeans, etc. Of course, Luanne is a force of nature, and I was lucky enough to make a concession with her: I’ll buy a black one for backup, and a burgundy one as well.I was hesitant at first. I put it up on myself and looked down. Color? On me? It was a new sight, odd in my eyes. I knew it wouldn’t work with my jeans, but I always liked deep reds. I agreed that I would get the burgundy sweater. Luanne made me a promise: “You’re going to meet the girl of your dreams in that sweater.” She complimented me on how good it looked, commenting about how women like color and that all-black was not good for dating.

One day, I got an email from Chemistry.com. Apparently, a certain Katie was interested in me! I was naturally rather excited, though I curtailed my enthusiasm so that it was nothing more than a slight excitement. She and I went through the guided process and got around to emailing each other. Not being one for endless email exchanges, I suggested we meet in person.

Luanne made me a promise: “You’re going to meet the girl of your dreams in that sweater.”

I was reminded of my red sweater when I begun the process of choosing the outfit I would wear on my date with Katie. I’m not a particularly superstitious person. But consider how little control I have over my romantic affairs. Everything else in life I have a fair degree of control over. I can excel in my academics if I chose to. I can obtain a good job using my skills and my ability to sell myself. Most every other aspect of my life can be directed as I wish, so long as I am willing to put the work in. Romance on the other hand, is much trickier. And as such, I took a “why not?” approach to things. I could use all the luck and other cosmic forces on my side as I could gather. I decided to wear my red sweater.

Katie and I decided on a Saturday at 4PM. We were going to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. I had told her to meet at the top of the stairs but to call me when she was there. I arrived early and went to the top of the stairs. It was getting awfully crowded, people bustling in and out of the doors. So I went down to the bottom of the steps, away from all the foot traffic. I figured she’d call me when she got there.

4:15PM. I was thinking, where is this girl? So I text her, “Hey Katie, it’s Wistful Writer from Chemistry. I’m here at the museum. If you’re running late or can’t make it, let me know. Thanks.” I mill around the area some more, taking in the nice weather and watching the performers.

In short, I ended up leaving at 4:45PM. I called her and left her a voice message, “Hey Katie, it’s Wistful Writer from Chemistry. We were supposed to meet at the museum today. I waited 45 minutes, didn’t see you so I left. If you wanna reschedule, let me know. If not, well, see you around then. Bye.” It was all very even-toned. I think I took it pretty well, considering that I thought I got stood up. I made my way to the subway station and go home.

I get out of the subway station and lo and behold I have a text from Katie. The short of it is that she felt terrible about the whole thing. She left her phone at work, and was looking for it. She abandoned the search figuring she didn’t want to be late for our date. I asked her if she wanted to reschedule, but didn’t get a response.

Katie seemed a little surprised, and said, “Oh, you’re paying for both of us?” I smiled and told her, “Of course, I’m traditional that way.” To which she commented, “That’s good, you never know nowadays.”

I sent her an email as a gentle reminder to let me know when would work for her. She got back to me midnight on Sunday and apologized for the delay as she didn’t know her schedule off the top of her head. We rescheduled for Saturday at 5PM (this last Saturday that just passed).

We met on East 77th Street and Fifth Avenue, by the park. She arrived in a timely fashion. I was looking at my phone when I heard a girl say, “Wistful Writer?” It was Katie. She had on a beige trenchcoat and those big sunglasses that are in vogue nowadays. I smiled and then there was that usual slightly awkward uncertainty of whether to go for a hug or shake hands. I just went for a hug, but I wasn’t sure if that was something she was accustomed to.

We made our way to the museum. After we got through the bag check, we went towards the entrance to the exhibits. The security officers were vigilant though and exercised good access control. They told us we needed the green pins. We get to the admission kiosk and show our student IDs. I didn’t notice that she had taken out her debit card at first, and I handed over a $20 bill, covering both of us. Katie seemed a little surprised, and said, “Oh, you’re paying for both of us?” I smiled and told her, “Of course, I’m traditional that way.” To which she commented, “That’s good, you never know nowadays.”

We wandered around the exhibit halls for a while. After a short while, we realized that we didn’t know where we were going. So away we went on a mini-quest to find maps. We made our way back to the lobby area, looking for pamphlet stands for maps. I suggested that we just ask this trio of employees where we could get some maps. I approached them and commanded their attention. The portly lady told me we could get them at any admission kiosks. I spotted some large blue pamphlets behind her, which I suspected were maps. Katie and I headed to the admission kiosk, where we found maps in a stack on the counter. Playing the role of a gentleman, I handed one to her and took one for myself. And sure enough, those were indeed maps behind the portly lady.

I brought up this one really nice exhibit that is always there, this big Egyptian temple thing with water surrounding it, in a large space with huge windows. We figured out that it was the Temple of Dendur and made our way there. We sat down on the stone seating area. It was beautiful as I remembered. Spacious, sunlight pouring through the floor-to-ceiling windows. It was more hushed than the other parts of the museum, perfect for having a conversation.

“You know, it’s funny because I wouldn’t have met you if I remembered to cancel my subscription, it renewed by itself,” I said. To this, she replied with a gentle smile, “Well I’m glad you forgot to cancel it.”

Here we sat for maybe an hour and a half or so, maybe two. We did what anyone does on a first date: talk about ourselves, getting to know the other person, all of that. And it was in this process that I found myself feeling something for her. Katie was a lot like myself. We liked doing things our own way, favored independence and free thinking. As introverts, neither of us fit in very well with our peers, preferring the company of more mature people. And we both even loved oldies music, and wished were born in another decade. I found it most enjoyable to discover those little things that made us unique, yet were the very things that we had in common. She also valued family, and had desires to be a wife and mother, very much in the same way thatI dream of being a husband and father. Unusual for her age, she was ready to be in a committed relationship.

At one point we started talking about online dating, I had mentioned my experiment that could be easily summed up in one tagline: “Three dating sites. Six months. Zero dates.” She asked, “Am I a part of that experiment?” And only then did I realize the implications of my story. I laughed and reassured her, “No, this is all pleasure, not business.” I went on to say that it’s actually interesting that she and I met. “You know, it’s funny because I wouldn’t have met you if I remembered to cancel my subscription, it renewed by itself,” I said. To this, she replied with a gentle smile, “Well I’m glad you forgot to cancel it.” I found no words to speak, only returning a warm smile. I searched her eyes for something, not knowing what to find. And in that very brief moment, we glimpsed an emotional connection between us.

Soon enough, I suggested that we take a walk around, look at some other exhibits. “Afterall, we paid $10,” I joked. We made our way to the Modern Art section where we encountered the work of the artist Pierre Bonnard that she had mentioned in her email. I realized that I do my best work without distractions around: any time there are distractions, the quality of my conversations go down. I also realized that I only go to museums for the ambiance, not because I want to view any specific exhibits. I knew nothing about artwork and wished that I had taken an art appreciation class.

We complete our little tour of the Modern Art section. It was getting dark, and I asked her if she’d like to get something to eat. I told her we could go to the cafeteria in the museum, or explore. I admitted that I didn’t know the area. She said that she seen some places on Madison Avenue on her way here. We opted to explore.

We emerged from the museum, and it was slightly colder than before. I asked her if she liked the cold or the heat, and like myself, she preferred the cold. We walked along the streets of Manhattan, taking the ambiance of the city. Down one street I noticed an SUV that was rather dusty. Inscribed by a finger on the back window was a clever message: “I wish my wife was this dirty!!!” Underneath it was another jokester’s reply: “She is!!!” I pointed it out to her, and we shared a laugh over it.

We made our way to Madison Avenue where she asked me which way we should walk. Just on a whim I decided to take a left. Several short blocks later, I spotted a little place. It looked warm. The awning said Caffe Grazie. I figured it must be Italian, can’t go wrong with Italian. I suggested that we take a look at the restaurant and asked her if she’d like to eat there. She said yes, and so we went in.

Caffe Grazie is a nice warm place, romantically lit (though the photos on their website don’t do it justice). The staff was very hospitable, taking our coats and pulling out the table for us to be seated. After settling down and looking at the menu, I chuckled and commented that I had never been to a place like this before. She told me that we didn’t have to eat here if I didn’t want to. I reassured her that I had no problem whatsoever with the restaurant, only that I was not accustomed to such a nice place. We looked over the menus and I ordered for her. Conversation over our respective pastas was somewhat interesting. I spoke on the debate of the Italian tradition of using a spoon to eat spaghetti, and the implications of serving bread with a meal. I got to show my screenwriting knowledge in a discussion of Al Pacino’s character in Scent of a Woman. However, there were lulls in the conversation much to my dismay. I was never very good at talking over a meal. Or perhaps it was the nature of two introverts getting together for the first time.

Anyway, we finished our dinner and collected our belongings. On the way out, I picked up a business card. As the door closed behind us, I realized that this was an opportunity to show her a sleight of hand illusion: the disappearing card that gets pulled out from thin air. I had brought up earlier when we were sitting at the Temple of Dendur that one of my other hobbies was sleight of hand magic, so it seemed appropriate. I performed the illusion, and of course, she reacted like everyone else does: “Oh wow!!!! How’d you do that?!?!?!?”

And as I was about to pull away, something unexpected happened. She leaned in and gave me a kiss on the cheek.

We walked to the 86th Street train station together. We had a little more discussion of what we found to be important in a relationship, something that we both seemed to agree on. One thing that may have been a faux pas on my part was my habit of being situationally aware. Katie must’ve noticed the way I scanned the crowd when we boarded the train. She asked me, “What are you looking for?” I was a little embarrassed to have been caught doing this, and I chuckled and explained to her that I like to remain situationally aware, and that is was a result of the habits ingrained through my experiences as well as just generally having the mentality of a police officer. I illustrated that a lot of people, when they are victims of a crime, can be cited as saying, “They came out of nowhere,” or “I never saw it coming.” I asked her if it bothered her, and she said almost defensively, “No, of course not. Why should it bother me?” I tried to assuage her by saying that others have told me that it bothers them. She said, “No, I don’t see why it should bother anyone.”

The train was nearing 59th-Lexington, and we both knew that this was the end of our date. We both kind of said at the same time, “Well, this is me/you…” I never know what to say at the end of a first date…last time my direct question of, “Will I see you again?” was no good. I knew with a very great degree of certainty that wanted to see Katie again. I searched her eyes for a sign of how she felt about me, but I was stumped. I told her, “Call me.” She said to me, “I will, definitely…” I uninhibitedly blurted, “Sometime next week.” She said, “I just have to check my schedule.” And as I was about to pull away, something unexpected happened. She leaned in and gave me a kiss on the cheek. I mustered up the warmest smile I could, said “Have a good night, get home safe,” and got off the train. I went home, determined not to mull over the date that had just transpired, drowning my thoughts with my music.

Sunday passed without hearing from her. I emailed her at half past midnight, telling her how much I enjoyed meeting her and that I’d love to see her again. And I have yet to hear back from her. But I’ve learned to operate in a way similar to a kind of missile guidance system: “fire-and-forget”. I told her how I felt, asked her out for a second date, and that’s that. I don’t want to be on the lookout for her email or text. I must admit though that it’s a little more difficult when I actually like the girl…it’s not love at first sight, but maybe just “like at first sight”. Only one other time have I met a girl that I felt compelled to see again. Only once have I felt any romantic notions towards a girl.

Am I ashamed to write on so many incidents that could be viewed as failures? Not in the least. The truth is the truth, there is no hiding from it, nor would I choose to hide it from anyone. I hold only a reticent sentiment of regret that I have yet to find myself engaged in a conventional romantic partnership. Some people may be more guarded with revealing their first dates with others. Understandably so. Most people won’t want others to know that they went on a first date that goes nowhere. Especially if they have a number of such outcomes. But I don’t view them in a particularly negative light. I don’t find it to be a reflection on my value as a person, as many others will feel. Rather, these are the events that shape my current disposition towards dating and love.

Luanne told me that I’d meet the girl of my dreams in my red sweater. I don’t know if Katie is the girl of my dreams, but she certainly has that potential. It’s too bad that Luanne’s promise didn’t include a clause that stated that I would get to be with the girl of my dreams too. Let us hope that my Magic-8 Ball was not lying when I asked it, “Am I going to see Katie on a second date?” It replied, “Without a doubt”. But to be frank, I don’t trust it. It’s always been wrong. ¶

  • Baller Jones

    Odds are you'll be wearing black.

  • Gary

    Good to hear that things went well. Goodluck with this one.

    As an introvert myself, I can definitely relate to how hard it is to establish a connection with people.

    I used to be a big black clothing guy myself cause it was simple and seemed like a safe choice for a guy. But I've slowly been breaking out of that pattern. Try dark earthy colors like dark green brown, then you can go with their complementary colors for a nice contrast, i.e., dark brown with light blue.

    Also, I found it hilarious how you quoted, "Katie seemed a little surprised, and said, 'Oh, you’re paying for both of us?' I smiled and told her, 'Of course, I’m traditional that way.' To which she commented, 'That’s good, you never know nowadays.'"

    Anyway, good read, hope to hear more about this later.

  • As usual, thanks for your readership my friend.

    I've relegated myself to dark red, dark blue, the occasional light blue, and shades of gray. I never really saw it as a question of fashion safety though: if I wanted to wear magenta, I'd do it lol. Rather, black suits my preference to remain unseen and forgettable. Of course, sometimes wearing all black can actually make you more noticeable, but that usually only results when you're interacting with people enough that they notice you wear all black on repeated occasions.

    I like my new quotation thingamabobs lol

    I never heard back from Katie. It's unfortunate, and I do question just why a girl would give me a kiss on the cheek if she had no intentions to see me again. But it's alright, there plenty of fish in the sea, though I am wistful that she didn't wish to see me again: it's not often you make that connection. I've only had such a privilege once, with Malissa (not that I'm hung up on her in the least).

    Occasionally, I will fret over the fact that I've never had the pleasure of being in a rewarding and meaningful relationship with the right kind of girl. After all, I'm getting old. At least that's how I feel some of the time.

    Then I remind myself that I am perfectly happy being single. That I don't need a woman to complete me. Honestly, at times when I feel weak, I have to remind myself of that repeatedly. But my pining for romance usually subsides after a couple of days, sometimes a week. And then it's back to normal: going to class, eating, sleeping, writing my screenplay/novel, consuming television shows and movies, reading on my Kindle….

    I don't know if you're actively searching for a partner yourself, but I hope your matters of romance are more successful than mine. For me….well, the search goes on. And I say this with my head held high.

  • Gary

    By safety, I guess I meant the same thing you mean. I don't like attracting attention to myself either, though I remember when I was a teen and thought it was cool to sport unusual clothing and colors. These days, I prefer a more subtle and sophisticated style with dark, earthy colors. Something that doesn't stand out, yet has its own depth when focused on.

    It is unfortunate that you didn't hear back from her. I wonder what happened myself. Perhaps it is one of those "human" things, where it's hard to sour things with the awkwardness of the truth and one simply feels compelled to be social and just be "nice." I mean, it's pretty hard, to tell someone in person that you don't like them. It's far easier to lie than having to deal with whatever reaction might result from the truth.

    In that case, I don't think anyone is to be blamed. It could be percieved as discourteous, but then again, from another angle, it could be seen as courteous enough to save the other party from the sudden and on the spot realization that the date was a failure. Rather, these things happen, they happen all the time and it's just unfortunate.

    Yet, one shouldn't stop because of a few failures. I'm reminded of a saying, "People who are successful are successful because they've gone through many failures and did not give up." I'm paraphrasing it, but you get the point. Failures and mistakes are bound to happen in any endeavor- I'm glad that you aren't giving up.

    As for myself, I am not compelled to seek romance at this point in my life. I'm at, I guess what you can call, a low point. To put it bluntly, I'm simply too poor at the moment to afford a girl nor do I have the competitive value I need. Sex, on the other hand, is another story, but is few and far between.

    But in all seriousness, I suppose I face some of the same challanges as yourself. As an introvert, it is hard to establish a meaningful connection with someone, and for me, it is not so much sharing feelings of "love", but being able to relate intellectually and philosophically. To make things worse, well, girls are our age are just dumb and immature.

    That is why in most cases, they are nothing more but sex objects to me. Maybe a bit misogynistic sounding, but I'm not a politically correct guy.

  • See, the thing that I find absurd is that she had an opportunity to leave early. She checked her phone at one point, which I didn't take to be offensive considering this day and age. She mentioned how her employees (she's a manager at a retail place) are always bothering her. She could've easily said that she had to check a voicemail and then left, saying that she had to rush in to work. She could've done a million other things to get out of the date. When I asked her if she'd like to get something to eat, she could've just said that it's getting late and that she's really busy. A million things. I like to give my dates an out. I provide them (though not overtly) opportunities to leave. But somehow, they stick around till the end of the date.

    The other thing that I find most irksome, discourteous, and disrespectful: never replying to me. The least you can do if I took you out on a date is give me the respect of even just emailing me and telling me that you didn't feel a connection, but thank you for the good time. Whatever happened to common courtesy and respect? I've only ever had one person decline a meeting with me respectfully, and she was 26. Fucking young people…

    I know the saying you're talking about…and I don't really view these as failures in any light. Rather, what happened happened. I don't find a need to define it as either success or failure. It is what it is. Even so, I'm starting to feel as if I should just forget about actively pursuing a romantic relationship. Forget the willfulness and follow the way of the Tao. Or some nonsense like that.

    Competitive value? I have a very strong opinion on that my friend. Fuck the girls who won't be with a guy if he lives at home, doesn't have a car, doesn't have a "good job". So long as a man's got ambition and potential, that's all that should matter. Unless the guy's in his mid 30s and still working at Radio Shack. That's different. But otherwise, she's not the kind of woman I want. I want a woman who wants to be with me, and not my car, my apartment, or my job. I want a woman who wants what is truly unique about me. I don't give a shit if a girl is overweight or too tall or too short or too skinny, or if she doesn't have college degree or if she works a dead end job. All that flies out the window: I care about seeing the core of the woman: what makes her tick, what makes her happy and sad, what makes her laugh. These little things are what I fall in love with, not some grandiose notion that she is the paragon of femininity.

    And in that way, I suppose I am a hopeless romantic. Ricky Nelson said, "A heart that's true and longs for you / is all I have to give." A woman who sees the value in that lyric is the woman I want. Sure, it'd be great to have a car and your own place and all that. But that can disappear in two fucking seconds. Any woman judging the 'value' of a man in those terms can go pound sand. She's a fucking dolt in my book.

    For me, I find that I'm attracted to women who have the same values that I have, so I suppose it's similar to your situation: where you like to relate intellectually and philosophically, I like to relate on a similar level. And how right you are, that girls our age are idiots. The curse of being smart I suppose…others don't know any better.

    lol, fuck being politically correct. That's the kinda shit I like to hear, it makes the world all the more colorful and interesting lol.

  • Gary

    Well, I'm not sure if lack of courtesy is exclusively a young people's problem. I have a suspicion that it is laziness that's at work here. Writing an email, making a call- they take an investment of energy, however little it is, why bother when there's no point? I suppose thats the reasoning behind it. But you're right, in that case, it is discourteous. If I was feeling particularly malicious, I'd sign them up for spam.

    I think you misunderstood what I was trying to get across when wrote that quote, or perhaps I just didn't communicate it effectively. Let me rephrase and elaborate: it is not so much a failure (even though it really is,) as it is a learning experience. The emphasis is not on failure, it is that you still got something out of it. Look at it optimistically.

    As for competitive value, I understand your position on it very well, having read your posts on the matter. Initially, I was going to write a long ass essay on why women have every right to be picky, on biological, and essentially, logical grounds. But you know what? Screw that. I think you already know why women are choosey. Men are too. I am too. You've already pointed out that you're an exception.

    And with that established, I really can't say much for you. I can only speak for myself- I like beautiful women more than anything else. Call me superficial, but I don't see why I should settle for anything less and be suckered, if I am going to work my ass off to become successful. Do I care about a woman's personality and values? Of course I do! But they've gotta be good looking, because that is first and foremost, what makes a woman.

    It's late. I spent an unusually long amount of time writing very little in this reply and I'm pretty fatigued. I'm sure I've missed quite a few important points- but it's clear that we have pretty different beliefs on the matter. I can only hope that you find what you are looking for, and as for myself, I'm not that bothered. The only thing that bothers me is that socioeconomic stratification exists, but I also realize that it's a fact of life… and that's why I've gotta be a man and work my ass off to get what I want.

  • Right you are friend…at the end of the day, it boils down to my idealism and refusal to bend to what I deem to be the bullshit system that runs the world. Shall I become a martyr? Perhaps. I don't know if it's worth it…but therein lies the difficulty of life: making decisions whose outcome cannot be seen for an undetermined length of time.